Original Research - Special Collection: Addressing Knowledge Asymmetries

Navigating complexity in evaluation with participatory systems mapping: A systematic review

Salah eddine Bouyousfi
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 12, No 2 | a734 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v12i2.734 | © 2024 Salah eddine Bouyousfi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 January 2024 | Published: 20 June 2024

About the author(s)

Salah eddine Bouyousfi, Faculté des Sciences Juridiques, Économiques et Sociales – Agdal, Université Mohammed V de Rabat, Rabat, Morocco


Background: Traditional evaluation methods suffer from some reductionism in dealing with complex interventions. To cope with this issue, researchers advocate for a more participatory approach to better understand how an intervention interacts with other factors within a broader system.

Objectives: Given the limited research incorporating Participatory Systems Mapping (PSM) into the evaluation process, this systematic review offers insights into how the PSM method can be applied to assess complex interventions.

Method: We conducted a systematic review of the PSM method’s application in the evaluation field. This review examined scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals dealing with the PSM and its use in evaluation.

Results: The research demonstrated that PSM has been a helpful tool for generating a comprehensive and profound understanding of how interventions function in complex settings. The findings indicate that PSM primarily utilises network analysis, integrated with stakeholders’ insights. However, several challenges have been identified: (1) PSM may fail to incorporate all stakeholders, resulting in an incomplete comprehension, (2) Addressing diverse stakeholder perceptions presents a significant hurdle and (3) Combining PSM with other methods is necessary to foster a more comprehensive approach.

Conclusion: This article provides insights into the application of PSM for evaluation purposes. It achieves this by summarising and analysing previous works, shedding light on the potential and limitations of its meaningful usage.

Contribution: This article addresses the lack of research employing PSM within the evaluation field, providing evaluators with valuable insights to leverage the use of this method in evaluating complex interventions.


complexity; participatory systems mapping; systematic review; complexity; system thinking.

JEL Codes

D61: Allocative Efficiency • Cost–Benefit Analysis; D79: Other; H43: Project Evaluation • Social Discount Rate

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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Crossref Citations

1. Editorial: Addressing knowledge asymmetries in memory of Dr Sulley Gariba
Mark Abrahams, Florence Etta, Mjiba Frehiwot, Eddah Kanini, Jean P. Nzabonimpa, Nicola Theunissen
African Evaluation Journal  vol: 12  issue: 2  year: 2024  
doi: 10.4102/aej.v12i2.762